Melissa, my wife, and I celebrated our ten year anniversary last month, but I've waited to finish this post until I could get all the words right. It's been in draft mode for several weeks. This is about as good as I got. So it's time to ship it.
I have witnesses
Every year I meet with a small group of guys – 3 or 4 of us depending on if one of us in out of the country – to stay connected, support one another, play, and provide perspective for each other.
We've been friends since meeting in college at Berkeley – so when we meet this year, we will have known each other more than 50% of our lives.
One of the benefits of having these long-term friends is that they can see the arc of your life more effectively than those who may only know you for a chapter of life.
Sure I have a great set of friends today. But like a mental health counselor, they get the slice of life that I share with them. That's neither good nor bad. It's just a reality that what you share when you're together isn't the “whole” story.
I'm telling you this to simply say that the story I'm sharing is one they've easily seen and agree with. They've been watching it happen and can be my witnesses if you question my suggestion that I'm alive because of my wife.
We all have our challenges
I'm not special. I'm just like you, in that we all have hard days. We all have challenges we face.
It's just that in certain scenarios we come to a place where start believing lies and start settling for less than what we could achieve.
Sound familiar? Ever given up hope or settled?
I did. And it almost cost me my life.
All because of a reality that I think we all face in big or small ways.
People want love. In the absence of it, they'll shoot for accomplishment.
At 23 I had dated a gal thru college that I thought would be my wife. Regardless of the health of the relationship, it ended when her folks decided that the fact we were from two different ethnic groups wasn't going to work for them, and she took their side.
By 27, after a rather quick courting, I got married to a gal that some good friends cautioned me against. I didn't care. I wanted to be married, regardless of the health of my motives. And in the end, it turned out to be some very expensive lessons. She left me after 20 months of being married.
I could blame each of them for “leaving” but the truth is deeper and more complicated than blaming them. It was me. I wanted something neither of them could deliver. I was a horrible husband, in that respect.
A counselor once told me this: people want love. In the absence of that, they'll go for accomplishment.
I should have listened closer. But instead I set new targets, non-relational ones.
I joined a startup and worked 16 hour days, 5-6 days a week, for a year. When we sold it, I started another one.
My goal with the second one? To sell it before I was 30. So 18 hour days, 5-6 days a week, for 18 months and we did it.
Three months before I turned 30 I sold my second startup for $10 million dollars. The next morning I went outside and guess what?
There were no parades. No one invited me to Disneyland.
And worse, my portion of the sale, over the next two years would get dramatically diluted as I helped the new owner raise more money.
I started believing a lie
Over the course of those years, working like mad – doing in a year what others were doing in two years, simply by working more hours – I started ignoring basic health principles.
I had stopped being a serious athlete and someone who exercised regularly back in college. Because of that, I'd put on weight. I was a big guy.
But I went from big to “oh my gosh check out that guy” over those startup years.
What I told myself was “what I bring to the table is my intellect.” It was a lie, but easy to believe.
We had sold that third startup, and I was recruited into a fourth to help grow it. In my mind my ability to create enterprise products, shrink buying cycles, and make investors money was tied to my intellect, not my body.
So I slept 4 hours a night. Ate only late at night. Drank fully leaded soda during the day. Barely walked. And started using valet service for everything.
It was a death sentence – just a matter of time before my frame wouldn't support my lifestyle.
But it didn't matter to me.
Because by that point, I had given up the idea of living much past 35. If I could make a lot of people rich, if I could eat well, go to nice hotels, and spend my days solving intellectual puzzles (people and product ones), then my 35 hears on the planet had been worth it.
You know how people said, “you can sleep when you're dead”? I was tired and ready.
What are you looking for?
One day, one of the guys I meet with yearly asked me to write down a few thoughts about the right kind of girl for me. He had someone he wanted me to meet.
As a joke, I made a list that was huge. Seriously – massive.
That ended that discussion. But he suggested I check out eHarmony.
I was curious and created a profile.
I wasn't even sure I was looking. I was tired. But my profile was remarkably accurate. So I paid for my account and turned it on.
After five hilarious first dates (posts for another site), I met Melissa – right as I was getting ready to transition to my fourth startup.
Can I tell you something amazing about her?
Of the 72 items on my list of what I was looking for – she met all 72. Every. Single. Item.
I didn't think I was looking for anything or anyone. But she was a miracle in a human body.
Can someone really be that perfect?
After all, she's a Christian woman who speeds on the freeway, doesn't talk politics, is close to her family, has healthy boundaries, wasn't in debt, is a teacher, sings and plays the piano, has a heart for the elderly and the hurting, and has no problem using her sharp wit and sarcastic tongue.
I know. Didn't I tell you? Perfection.
I'm about to turn 44 – that's ten years more than I honestly thought I had in me
When I met Melissa, I had set a new all-time high for the record number of years living without a vacation. From the time I was sixteen, I had gone another 16 years without a vacation longer than 3-5 days. I was a workaholic. I barely slept. And I was much bigger than I am today (I know, hard to believe).
She wanted me to take some vacations. To take breaks.
She challenge me to sleep more. Eat more often, less, and better food.
And she wouldn't let me propose until I scheduled a surgery I had looked at to loose enough weight so I could start walking again, more than 40 feet without needing to stop and sit down.
It's true. At that time I could barely move. And until I met her, I didn't care.
But when you meet an angel on the planet, you realize some things are worth making a change for.
And more than anything, she didn't put ultimatums in front of me. She put vision. She cast vision for children. For family life.
I can't tell you how blessed I am today because of my two kids, Emily and Christian. I couldn't imagine them back then.
I couldn't imagine much. Just a year or two of meals, hotels, and valet service. Until Melissa.
“I believe in you.” “I'm proud of you.”
Four word statements that can change a life. That did change my life.
And gave me the drive to make changes.
I married up
If you know me, and don't know her, you're seriously missing out.
I'm still on a journey. Down to a t-shirt that is a 5x – which to you is crazy big. But to me, it's down several sizes.
I can walk for 30-40 minutes before getting tired and sore. Not 30-40 steps.
I now sleep 5-6 hours a night, on my slow way to 8 someday.
All because of an amazing woman who cares for people. She's a lover of people and if you spend time with her, you'll notice it right away.
She looks at you in your eyes. And you know you're the only one she's paying attention to.
She may be the only person on the planet who doesn't even notice that her phone is buzzing in her pocket. That's how focused she is on what you're saying as you're talking to her.
It's been ten amazing years I didn't think I had in me
Am I telling you this because I want you to suffer in the knowledge that you don't have it as good as I have.
Not really. Ok, a tiny bit maybe. 🙂 But no. That's not my point.
My point is that the power she has is not unique.
I'm celebrating ten years with my wife, but there's a lesson in here for you too.
The power of your words can give people life.
What are you doing with your words? Who are you influencing? Who are you challenging with your vision of their better life?
As you share and care for those around you, watch and see. It may take a decade to witness, but they'll blossom into the person they're meant to be – all because you weren't silent.